There are no half words or incomplete emotions when it comes to Venice. It is not a city, it is an experience. It is not ancient or modern, it is in all its splendor, the present. The tourists that pass by are often divided between those who love and those who hate this city surrounded by 146 islands intertwined by 450 bridges.
According to the poet Brodsky, Venice is above the category of city, it is an experience, a parallel universe, a watershed for those who can afford to walk unhurriedly through this city that does not know the movement of cars, absorbing their noises, the melody of the bells, their odors and their infinite palette of colors. There you do not walk, you float.
This city, far from the category of city, because it is half fairy tale and half reality, provides a constant sensation of novelty and discoveries. Venice is not modern, it is eternal. Venice is simply, Venice. Peggy Guggenheim said it best:
It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal city for a honeymoon, but it is a serious mistake. To live in Venice, or simply to visit it, means to fall in love with it, and in the heart there is no room for anything else.
I was taken by this sudden love for Venice, to such extent that I am back every two ears to ratify my affair. One of the reasons is to revive the city through the famous Venice Biennale. Every two years I come across a new city, with new artists, more and more heated discussions, and unusual works. In the midst of all this art, I also find, my greatest source of inspiration: the optical production that in Venice (as well as everything in that city) is extra special. I would dare say that there is something in the water of Venice (pollution apart), because the creativity of the designers falls short of the rest of the world. If the streets keept secrets, then the best hidden ones are the optical shops that house splendorous designs.
Marco Frezzeria 1280, Venezia
Tel. 041 5224140
The store dates back to 1952. Enormous figures like Hemingway, Vedova, Carlo Scarpa and the most famous contemporary client, Elton John, have all been there. The three children of the original Urbani manage the store nowadays. All specs are hand-made in Belluno (the world’s optical production center, which is 3 hours from Venice), and all the pieces have one thing in common: “ironic” design, as Fosca Urbani says. “An eyewear can not just be an eyewear, it should be a fun, attractive and exceptional piece.” This is what the visitor will find in Urbani. The pieces are produced on a small scale, the designs are unique and there are no other outlets other than the physical store or the e-commerce brand. The ideal address for anyone looking for exclusivity, good prices and eccentric shapes, all designed and sold by true Venetians, full of stories to share.
Merceria del Capitello, 4860, 30124 Venezia VE, Itália
Mantovani inaugurated in 1871 and remains until today in the very same address. It is still a familiar shop, with production in Belluno. The designer is Mrs. Carlon (daughter of Mr. Carlon, who bought the shop in the 1940s). Amongst the clientele are Peggy Guggenheim and most recently Elton John (lover of Venice and of glasses). Ms. Carlon’s predilection are customers with personality and audacity, who might be able to sport her asymmetric and very controversial creations. At the back of the store is a small museum with very rare shapes and designs that date from the beginning of the 20th century.
Calle de la Mandola, 3706, 30124 Venezia VE, Itália
Carraro is more modern and less exclusive than other Venetian optical shops. The house brand itself is less expressive than the other commercial models that the store sells. But, it is noteworthy that the opaque acetate, which to the eye seems rubbery, is stunning. There are few shapes and the collections are not updated annually, but like all eyewear “fatto a mano” in Belluno, the quality is indisputable. Carraro is a good tip for men and women with classic tastes, lovers of round models and turtle prints.
Calle delle Ostreghe, 2436, 30124 Venezia VE, Itália
Imagine walking into the lab of a mad scientist, that really cliche character, with transparent high-tech glasses, gadgets, and everything clean around you. This is the sensation one has when entering Micromega, a high-tech uber optic just a few steps from Campo de San Stefano. It is almost incongruous to find a place so technological in such an ancient city. Micromega is a destination for those who want to spend (a lot) to have an exclusive piece, and at the same time has personality to spare. Their expertise is in the production of eyewear in titanium, buffalo horn and bamboo. But the design is not specifically ON the frames. Micromega works the lenses. That is, each pair of lenses is drawn and laser cut into delicate sheet designs, asymmetrical shapes, or geometric contours. The pieces are very light and extremely delicate. They are very interesting (from the manufacturing point of view) but not always flattering.
Salizzada San Samuele, San Marco, 3145
The eyewear mix at Ottica Manuela is sublime. The decor is super fun, you sit in a closet surrounded by very funky and original glasses. The mix will go from Io Eyewear to PQ, passing through Saturnino. The forte is in the independent Italian design, but this does not mean that there is no room for the rest of the world. The sales team is cool and humorous. Worth the visit.